Venezuela’s opposition on Monday called on its supporters to join escalating protest tactics against the government, including a 24-hour national strike on Thursday.
The opposition coalition, the Democratic Unity Table (MUD), held a news conference to discuss Sunday’s unofficial referendum in which nearly 7.2 million Venezuelans rejected President Nicolas Maduro's government.
"It is time for zero hour," opposition leader Freddy Guevara said on behalf of MUD as he announced the "massive protest" strike.
"We call on the whole country this Thursday to join massively and peacefully a national civic strike of 24 hours as a mechanism of pressure and preparation for the definitive escalation which will be next week," he added.
Maduro's opponents are pressuring him to drop a plan to rewrite the constitution and hold early elections. The opposition has called on the government to call off the July 30 election of members of a constituent assembly which has the power to change the constitution as well as the country's political system.
"Time for zero hour"
The National Assembly – also controlled by the opposition – says it will name new members of the country's supreme court, a move certain to be blocked by Maduro's administration. The court is controlled by loyalists of Maduro's ruling socialist party.
"Tomorrow in the National Assembly convening [...] will receive the final results (of Sunday's plebiscite) and will give the commission the ability to name the new magistrates, a process that will culminate on Friday with the naming of the new magistrate in the Supreme Court of Justice of Venezuela," Guevara.
Venezuelans within and outside the country voted in a symbolic and unofficial plebiscite on Sunday organised by the opposition.
Venezuela "sent a clear message to the national executive and the world," Central University of Venezuela President Cecilia Garcia Arocha announced, noting that 6,492,381 voted in the country and 693,789 abroad. These results from the university guarantors came after 95 percent of ballots had been counted.
It remains unclear what real impact the balloting – which the government dismissed as illegal and politically irrelevant – would have.
Any stepped-up confrontation between the opposition and the government threatened to deepen a political crisis that, since the beginning of April, has left 100 people dead.
The White House on Monday condemned violence by "government thugs" in Venezuela against protesters, calling for free and fair elections.